Top 5 ADN Bridge to MSN Nurse Practitioner Programs

By: Staff
Last Updated: December 2019

An associate degree in nursing (ADN) prepares registered nurses for the clinical duties of their work. However, many nurses can't advance their careers without also advancing their educations. Most master's programs require applicants to complete a bachelor's degree, but bridge programs allow students to bypass the bachelor's and earn a master of science in nursing (MSN).

Earning a master's degree in nursing prepares RNs to take on advanced positions in their healthcare organizations. The best ADN-to-MSN nurse practitioner programs train nurses to become independent medical providers. Career opportunities include nurse practitioner, midwife, or nurse anesthetist. RNs earn a median wage of $71,730 each year, and nurse practitioners earn $113,930.

Demand continues to rise for these advanced care nurses, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting a 26% increase in employment between 2018 and 2028. As the number of general care physicians declines, many communities seek nurse practitioners to serve as general medical care providers. Licensing requirements vary by state, but many states continue to expand the services nurse practitioners may provide.

University of Mary

A private Catholic university located in Bismarck, North Dakota, the University of Mary offers an online ADN-to-MSN program. This accelerated program enables registered nurses to earn their degrees in just 20 months.

Among ADN-to-MSN bridge programs, the University of Mary's stands out for its focus on nursing leadership and management. Nursing students complete courses in healthcare administration, nursing research, and nursing leadership. The curriculum blends advanced nursing courses with classes from the business program and 500 hours of practical leadership experience, building professional skills.

The ADN-to-MSN program requires a minimum 2.75 GPA from the applicant's nursing diploma or associate degree program at an accredited institution. It also requires a current RN license and two letters of reference. The program offers full- and part-time schedules, both of which accommodate working nurses balancing school with their professional careers.

The University of Mary holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

MCPHS University

Founded in 1823 as the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS), today MCPHS University offers medical programs at its Boston campus and online. Nurses with an ADN qualify for the RN-to-MSN bridge program with a concentration for family nurse practitioners. A part-time program designed for working nurses, MCPHS incorporates four on-campus meetings and a clinical experience, which students complete locally. Nursing students spend one year completing the BSN bridge coursework followed by MSN coursework.

The curriculum covers advanced pathophysiology, evidence-based practice, advanced health assessment, and family primary care.

Prospective students must hold an ADN from an accredited college or university with a minimum 3.0 GPA. MCPHS requires current RN licensure and sets prerequisite coursework for admissions. The 62-credit ADN-to-MSN program takes three years to complete for students taking two courses per semester. MCPHS enrolls nursing students for spring or summer start dates.

MCPHS University holds accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

Frontier Nursing University

A private graduate school in Hyden, Kentucky, Frontier Nursing University (FNU) dates back to 1939. With an exclusive focus on nursing education, FNU offers an ADN bridge entry option for its MSN program. Nurses with an associate degree spend one year completing BSN coursework before entering the MSN program. Nursing students then choose a concentration; options include family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, or certified nurse-midwife.

The ADN-to-MSN program offers full- and part-time options, plus three brief, on-campus residencies and 675 clinical hours during the MSN coursework. FNU is one of the best ADN-to-MSN bridge programs for nurses considering a doctorate in nursing. After earning an MSN at FNU, nurses only need an additional 19 credits to earn a DNP. Prospective students must have an ADN with a minimum 3.0 GPA from an accredited nursing program, and FNU requires at least one year of nursing experience for admission. Frontier Nursing University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Western University

Western University specializes in healthcare education. Its ADN-to-MSN bridge programs prepare RNs for clinical and administrative leadership roles or ambulatory care nursing. The flexible curriculum offers two- and three-year tracks, allowing students to balance their studies with their career and family commitments.

The WU program utilizes self-directed learning activities through its online learning platform. Students partake in discussion forums, conduct research, and prepare presentations. They must also attend two weekend seminars each semester on-campus in Pomona, California. These intensive sessions allow students to take part in demonstrations and presentations while interacting with their peers and instructors.

Applicants must hold an associate degree in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA and active nursing licensure. Students should hold one year of clinical nursing experience. Prerequisite courses include nutrition, anatomy, physiology, and microbiology.

The school's college of graduate nursing holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Its programs also meet licensing standards for the California Board of Registered Nursing. WU holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee began offering nursing education in 1908. Its ASN-to-MSN bridge programs offer an innovative path for nurses expanding their education and career opportunities and those seeking a career change.

The program features a prespeciality curriculum, which prepares students to seek an advanced nursing specialization. Specializations include adult-gerontology, emergency nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, healthcare leadership, nursing informatics, mental health nurse practitioner, and neonatal nurse practitioner. Students can graduate in 2-3 years.

Vanderbilt welcomes applicants with associate degrees in nursing or bachelor's degrees in other fields. Applicants should hold a minimum 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate coursework. RNs need 78 credits covering courses in human anatomy and physiology, nutrition, developmental psychology, and microbiology. RNs must hold a valid nursing license and qualify to practice in their home states.

The modified learning format combines distance education with up to four on-campus sessions each semester. The school works with students to identify appropriate clinical sites near their home areas whenever possible. Nursing programs hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and approval from the Tennessee Board of Nursing. Vanderbilt maintains regional accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on College (SACSCOC).

What to Expect from an Online ADN-to-MSN Bridge Program

ADN-to-MSN bridge programs build on the clinical expertise of experienced RNs to develop leadership and management abilities. Many programs also prepare nurses to take on advanced practice roles as nurse practitioners, midwives, or nurse anesthetists. Each school develops its curriculum to meet requirements from the state board of nursing and local healthcare providers.

Benefits of Online Learning

Online ADN-to-MSN bridge programs allow practicing nurses to continue working while furthering their educations. Online programs feature flexible class scheduling, and many schools offer clinical placements close to the student's home area. Students can continue to live and work in their communities without the need to relocate near a school.

Students can continue to live and work in their communities without the need to relocate near a school.

Online learning programs often feature asynchronous scheduling, which allows students to log on and complete assignments as their schedules permit. Other programs use synchronous courses, which require students to log on at scheduled times during the week. Because many nursing programs require practical learning, some schools offer blended formats. In these programs, students may attend a few on-campus sessions each semester and complete the rest of their work online.

Admission Requirements for an Online ADN-to-MSN Program

Admission requirements vary by program. However, many schools require students to hold at least an associate degree in nursing and an active nursing license. This requirement ensures students complete general education requirements and possess the clinical expertise necessary to complete the program. Many schools require a minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate studies.

Many schools require students to hold at least an associate degree in nursing and an active nursing license.

Bridge programs require letters of recommendation from supervisors outlining applicants' experience, work ethic, and professional accomplishments. Students must also share their reasons for pursuing a graduate degree and their professional aspirations. Many programs also require a background check before students participate in clinical rotations.

RN-to-MSN vs. ADN-to-MSN Programs

When seeking an ADN-to-MSN bridge program, you may find more RN-to-MSN opportunities. These programs feature the same curricula and provide a direct path to a master's degree, bypassing the bachelor's degree. RN-to-MSN programs, on the other hand, accept registered nurses who completed diploma programs or associate degrees.

Concentrations Offered for Nurse Practitioners


These nurses typically work in private practices, birthing centers, and hospitals providing obstetric services. They work with mothers-to-be to develop birthing plans. They also stay with mothers through labor and childbirth and provide support and education for postpartum women on issues such as breastfeeding and infant care. They must identify complications and call in medical doctors as necessary.

Average Median Salary: $93,564

Psychiatric Mental Health

These nurses work within the mental health field to provide patient assessment and diagnosis, prescribe medication, and develop treatment plans. They may offer counseling services or consult with other healthcare providers on patient needs. They work in substance abuse treatment facilities, outpatient mental health clinics, and residential treatment centers.

Average Median Salary: $103,199


Healthcare providers work with patients 18 years old and younger. They may work in physician's offices, with medical groups, or independently. They may provide general medical care services, such as checkups, routine screenings, or treatment of common childhood illnesses. They can prescribe medication and order lab and imaging tests.

Average Median Salary: $87,822

Nurse Anesthetist

These advanced practice nurses administer anesthesia during medical procedures. They meet with patients before their procedures to discuss pain management options and potential side effects. They also monitor patients during surgical procedures. These nurses work in surgical hospitals, outpatient care centers, or the offices of physicians, dentists, and pain management specialists.

Average Median Salary: $146,305

Sample Courses for an ADN-to-MSN Program

  • Issues in Nursing

    This course examines ethical, economic, legal, and political problems that impact healthcare delivery for patients and nurse professionals. With an emphasis on the longitudinal nature of modern concerns and trends, course content requires critical-thinking and strategy skills. Through discussions, projects, and case studies, students evaluate current professional perspectives.

  • Advanced Pathophysiology

    Advanced pathophysiology examines how underlying diseases manifest across a person's lifespan. Coursework requires students to identify the environmental, psychosocial, physical, and cognitive factors and characteristics of conditions and diseases. This course emphasizes the critical-thinking and analytical skills used to debunk pathophysiological mechanisms for effective clinical decision-making.

  • Leadership and Health Policy

    Leadership and health policy explores the relationship between policy development and research. Students examine information released by health policy departments to determine implications from a public health perspective. Through case studies, students explore how to improve policies on federal, state, and local levels. This course also covers pertinent principles of organizational change.

  • Research and Analytic Approaches to Advanced, Evidence-Based Practice

    In this course, students explore the research process to examine how systematic frameworks correlate with evidence-based practices. Students improve their analytical skills by critiquing published research and developing quantitative or qualitative theories. They also evaluate literature to uncover applicable clinical practice methods. This course also applies statistical methods and rationales to research analysis.

  • Diagnostic Physical Exams Across the Lifespan

    Students learn about health assessments, the diagnostic history of physical examinations, and human development so they can diagnose patients of all ages. This course explores pertinent theories, principles, and strategies rooted in behavioral and physical science and how they can be used to generate complete health synopses. Students evaluate case studies to uncover the best examination procedure methods at various stages of life.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online ADN-to-MSN Bridge Program?

The best ADN-to-MSN nurse practitioner programs allow students to complete their degrees in 2-3 years, requiring 48-62 credits. The time necessary to graduate often depends on whether students enroll full time or part time. Some specialty programs do require full-time enrollment and extended clinical practice.

Some programs utilize a cohort model, in which students move through the curriculum as a group. Under this model, students may not enroll in additional classes. Other schools may allow students to take extra classes as their schedules allow, accelerating their progress toward graduation.

Clinical Component for Nurse Practitioners

Students must demonstrate clinical expertise before graduating from an ADN-to-MSN bridge program. Clinical experiences range from 200 clinical hours for administrative nurse leadership programs to more than 600 hours for clinical specializations. These requirements vary by school and state. If you attend a school in another state, verify the requirements with your state's board of nursing.

Clinical rotations take place in healthcare settings such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, and physician offices. Students work under the supervision of a nurse preceptor, who provides instruction and guidance. The preceptor communicates with nursing school faculty regarding student performance.